We need to brace for tough times, belt-tightening times in Sunnyside. That was the message on Monday night from a special council session on the 2009 budget.
It was encouraging to have a public meeting to discuss the budget situation and for it to apparently be a full house.
If the citizens and businesses of Sunnyside are going to be asked to make sacrifices, I wonder if there are some other budget items that would be willing to bite the bullet.
Consider some options, call them my eight "wonders":
1. I wonder how much city employees pay for health insurance coverage for their families? Is there a way they could pay more?
2. I wonder with a salary well more than three times that of what the average Sunnysider makes, would Sunnyside City Manager Eric Swansen be willing to pay for his own Spanish lessons instead of the city footing the bill? Would he for a year be willing to forego some or all of his monthly car allowance and just be reimbursed on a simple mileage basis like most of us are?
3. I wonder why I haven't seen much about cuts in the city's fleet of vehicles. Could we lease less expensive vehicles or make do without some of them? What about the city's support to the Chamber of Commerce, could that be reduced, too?
4. I wonder, do every city council person and most city staff members really need a notebook computer purchased at city expense? Could we forego most of the notebooks for a year, as well as the maintenance, software upgrade and wireless package required for each?
It can be done, just ask Councilwoman Carol Stone, who relies on old-fashioned hard copies of council documents.
5. I wonder, while we're on technology, what about trimming staff and/or hours in the IT department? Could we do without an IT person at the city council meetings who essentially is there to apparently manage power point presentations and help council and staff with their notebook computers? How much is the city spending to have its meetings broadcast on the internet?
6. I wonder about city-issued cell phones. Is there a way the city could downsize its number of cell phones or the package it uses?
7. I wonder, why not lease out the airport and ask the Port of Sunnyside to at least pay a portion of that nearly $200,000 a year in utility tax?
8. Just wondering, does Sunnyside need a full time city attorney? Grandview is a city of about 9,000 people and they are making do with a city attorney who is not fulltime on the city dime.
If there need to be cuts in order to get back to a balanced budget I'm all for it.
But fellow Sunnysiders, watch these cuts carefully.
This is a staff-driven council and I'm not convinced that maybe there aren't some hours or budget items in other departments that couldn't be cut or reduced.
There may very well be enough volunteers out there to keep city parks mowed, but we need our police officers.
I hope I'm wrong, but there's also a part of me that wonders that perhaps the cut first, ask questions later approach might be a way to throw a little fear into the populace to grease the skids for a tax levy.